LITTLE ROCK (KTHV) - Every year, Arkansas Children's hospital cares for 900 babies in its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
These infants, often born premature or with illness, face a tough start to life. But new expansion at ACH hopes to smooth out the bumps for the babies and their families.
The expansion includes nearly 20 new private rooms for these babies and their families to spend time together during a precious start to life. And one mother that we talked to from Fayetteville says it couldn't be any better.
At seven weeks old, Nathan Aguilera is doing exactly what he should be doing, sleeping in his mother's arms.
The two are at peace in this new private room that's part of ACH's expanded Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. There are 17 of these rooms, complete with a crib for the baby and a fold-out couch, bathroom and TV for mom and dad.
"I have been at the Ronald McDonald House for a little more than two weeks and prior to that I was staying in the waiting room," Melissa Aguilera said. "This is awesome, this is awesome being able to sleep here tonight with him."
It's a better set-up from the existing ICU, which cares for babies in more open rows of cribs. The expansion also includes a Family House with lockers, laundry and a kitchen.
"I mean if it were my child, I would want to be with them 24-7 and that's what most of our families want, to stay with their babies as much as possible," Patient Care Manager Amanda Weaver said.
Weaver says they're meeting a basic, human desire while growing ACH into a landmark facility.
"We're also excited to have a 100-bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the largest in the State of Arkansas," Weaver said.
The hospital is expanding its care and turning a tough start to life into a more comfortable path ahead.
"He's doing awesome, he's doing awesome, I was looking at pictures from before and he's come a long way," Aguilera said.
We're told that Nathan was born with some of his intestines on the outside of his body. But as his mom said he's doing much better after surgery at ACH. The two actually had their first night in this private room Monday night. They hope to head back home on Wednesday, freeing up the room for another family to enjoy.
On top of what we just told you, the expanded Neonatal Intensive Care Unit has a new pod area with eight beds for babies, requiring special technology for care. All together, everything will allow ACH to care for up to 100 neonatal babies daily.
This is all part of the hospital's South Wing expansion announced back in June.